Concerned about the effects city living has on your complexion? You’re not alone. We asked a dermatologist for her top tips for protecting skin against the effects of air pollution.
How photopollution affects the skin
Spots, dullness, uneven skin tone… we’ve already discussed the effects pollution can have on the skin.
But did you know that pollution has the potential to worsen the effects of UV-related damage?
This phenomenon, known as photopollution, has been demonstrated to have various negative consequences for the skin, with hyperpigmentation a particularly common problem. Research by L’Oréal also suggests a link between exposure to urban pollution and adult acne.
Because they are damaged, the cells are unable to divide and the epidermis is unable to renew itself , as before renewal can take place, cells first have to repair existing damage
Laurent Marrot, L’Oréal expert
In an interview with journalist Vivienne Parry, L’Oréal expert Laurent Marrot reveals:
“Skin cells are exposed to stress from photopollution, which results from a combination of air pollution and UV rays. This damage can affect the cell’s outer covering, its proteins or even its DNA. Because they are damaged, the cells are unable to divide and the epidermis is unable to renew itself, as before renewal can take place, cells first have to repair existing damage (via production of antioxidants).
Thus, we can see that the continued renewal of the epidermis would be affected [by photopollution].”
Protecting skin from air pollution
We asked dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos for her recommendations on how best to counteract the daily effects of pollution. For Nina, cleansing is particularly important for those of us living in urban environments, as built-up dirt and grime can sink into pores, resulting in imperfections and blackheads: “What I often do with my patients - particularly those who don’t wear a lot of makeup - is ask them to swipe a damp cotton pad across their face. If the pad comes back grey or dark, it’s a sign that the skin hasn’t been properly cleansed.” Check out Nina’s full list of tips for thoroughly cleansing skin from the inside out.
Topical application of certain key skincare ingredients, including vitamin C, vitamin E and antioxidant baicalin, has been shown to help fight against the appearance of age spots and other symptoms of photodamage, as well as boosting the effectiveness of sun protection.
When it comes to lifestyle, it goes without saying that nutrition is crucial when looking to boost your skin’s natural defenses. Foods rich in vitamin C have been linked to a reduction in inflammation of the skin, while exercise (or, more specifically, perspiration) can help reduce toxins that may have built up within the skin.
L’Oréal Scientific Report: new knowledge data about pollution and photopollution concept, Aulnay-Sous-Bois, May 2017.
 ‘Contribution of pollution in premature skin aging’, L’Oréal Research. May 2, 2017.
 Fitzpatrick R.E., Rostan E.F. ‘Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage’ in Dermatological Surgery 28.3 (2002) p. 231-236 [Accessible here]
 Darr, D., Dunston, S. et al, ‘Effectiveness of antioxidants (vitamin C and E) with and without sunscreens as topical photoprotectants’ in Acta dermato-venereologica 76.4 (1996) pp. 264-268 [Accessible here]